Central Italy

Fancy a month in a little villa in Tuscany? Who wouldn’t! A place to kick back and enjoy all the fabulous food and wine that Italy has to offer. But it’s not the historic villas, the movie stars or the tremendous fare that really gets me going. Rather, it is the wonderful wine that this particularly fertile and beautiful part of Central Italy brings. Sure, there is Chianti, sometimes wonderful but often a bit drab. But that is only the beginning. Chianti might be the most famous of Central Italian wines, but there are plenty of other tasty drops, some of which challenge the best wines in the world for personality and style. In Tuscany the great Italian red grape Sangiovese is king, with an array of regions famous for delicious, lip-smacking wines. The top wine is Brunello di Montalcino. This 100% Sangiovese is produced around the town of Montalcino, where the wines include the most powerful and long-lived Sangiovese in Italy. Sangioveses are also found in Rosso di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Carmignano, and Chianti, with the wines labelled Chianti Classico the best of the bunch. Within Tuscany two famous white wines are also produced - the dry Vernaccia di San Gimignano and the sweet Vin Santo. Vin Santo, which is made from dried grapes, may very well be the top dessert wine in Italy with its rustic fruit and measured sweetness; beautiful with a little biscotti at the end of a long meal. Vernaccia is a fairly lightly flavoured but medium-bodied dry white that is great with fish and best drunk young. Tuscany is also where the international grapes have made their greatest inroads, especially in Bolgheri. This is the spiritual home to Italian Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, producing some spectacular, and often very expensive, wines from these noble grapes that really are absolutely top class. While Tuscany is the main region worth getting to know in Central Italy, it is by no means the only area producing smart wines, although most of the others are made for easy drinking. Starting with Emilia-Romagna, the main wines are simply the red Sangiovese di Romagna and the white Trebbiano di Romagna, with the wines made from Sangiovese and Trebbiano respectively. But the most famous local plonk is the sweet sparkling red Lambrusco. While many Lambruscos are very average to say the least, some are delicious, lightly sparkling wines that are great with rich local cuisines, such as tomato based pastas. From Umbria comes the Sagrantino di Montefalco producing huge wines with great depth of fruit but also a fair whack of tannins for those who like their wines on the full and rustic side. Last are the regional wines from Abruzzo, the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and the Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. Both can be good, with the Montepulciano quite rich with low tannins, while the white Trebbiano is made for quaffing.